© Sydney Mahlangu - Backpage PixCAF Champions League matchAuthor: Misokuhle ZukeMamelodi Sundowns’ Senior Coach Manqoba Mngqithi believes that it is a good omen that the five nations who will be representing Africa at the FIFA World Cup this year are led by local coaches.
Cameroon’s Rigobert Song, Otto Addo of Ghana, Moroccan Walid Regragui, Aliou Cissé of Senegal and Tunisia’s Jalel Kadri not only carry the weight of expectation from their countries, but the entire continent too. It will be up to these men to break the quarterfinal ceiling that African teams have struggled to surpass at the global showpiece that will run from 20 November to 18 December in Qatar.
“Personally, I think it’s the direction that African teams should have taken a long time ago,” Mngqithi said. “In the past, the same African coaches would qualify these teams for the major competitions when they are supposed to be preparing for the World Cup. Foreign coaches would be given those opportunities at the expense of our fellow African counterparts who had done very well in the preparation of these teams.”

Of the five coaches who will be carrying their nation’s hopes, Regragui is a familiar figure in the Bafana BaStyle camp. Regragui led Wydad Casablanca to CAF Champions League glory in May of this year. Mngqithi has been following his progress due to Sundowns’ well-documented rivalry with the Moroccan giants.
“Structurally and tactically he is very astute,” Mngqithi stated. “He is a good leader also. He has the capacity to bring out the best of his players. There are some of his players who were not looking very good under Faouzi Benzarti but the moment he got an opportunity he really showed that he can take over and make the team a formidable side.”

Morocco are in the same group as Belgium, Canada and Croatia. Senegal are grouped with hosts Qatar, Netherlands and Ecuador. Ghana will battle with Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Group G. Tunisia have France, Denmark, and Australia in Group D. All five teams are in tough groups, but Mngqithi believes that the weather conditions will favour African teams and he sees one of them reaching the quarterfinals - and also push for a semi-final berth.

When asked who he thinks could do well in this World Cup, Mngqithi lists Senegal, Brazil, Spain, Germany and a surprise team. “This World Cup is a little bit strange because it also has teams that are really showing good qualities, like Denmark,” he said.
© Samuel Shivambu - Backpage PixGavin Hunt and Manqoba Mngqithi showing good sportsmanship during the match between Supersport United and Sundowns“I know that many people will think I am crazy, but I honestly think that the Danish
team must be watched very closely. They have got something notable to offer.”

The World Cup will be smack in the middle of the 2022/23 season due to Qatar’s weather conditions. The DStv Premiership will take a pause during the tournament. Sundowns’ last match before the World Cup was against Royal AM on the 29th of October. The team will resume its title defence on the 31st of December against Orlando Pirates.

“The biggest thing that we must all understand is that we are entertainers,” Mngqithi said when asked about playing on New Year’s Eve. “Entertainers must always be at work when people are resting. That’s the truth of the matter. When everyone else is on holiday, it’s the time for us and everyone in the industry to accept that it is our duty to entertain the people who are at home.”
© Sydney Mahlangu - Backpage PixDStv Premiership season launchNot only will the club be playing in an unfamiliar period when domestic football returns, but fixtures will also be congested to make up for the break. This is nothing new to the club as congested fixtures are a regular occurrence due to the Brazilians’ Champions League ambitions.